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And the binge-drinking capital of Europe is ...

Posted by Christopher Shea  April 27, 2010 03:34 PM

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The Irish Times recently trumpeted the following finding from a European Commission report on attitudes toward alcohol: "Irish Binge Drinking 'Highest in EU.'" That may be a dubious honor but it is not, it turns out, an uncontested one. Reading the same study, the Daily Telegraph, in London, proclaimed Britain "the 'Binge-Drinking Capital of Europe.'"

Who's right? P. O'Neill, at Best of Both Worlds, a blogger interested both in social science and Irish affairs, dug into the data. It's safe to say that both countries have lived up to (or down to) the stereotypes. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting. By that definition, Ireland is, indeed, on top: Of Irish respondents to an E.U. survey who said they had drunk alcohol within the last month, 19 percent said they tended to have 5 to 6 drinks each time. An additional 5 percent said they had 7 to 9 drinks per sitting, while 2 percent had 10 or more. Overall, 26 percent of Irish drinkers said they had binged in the last month.
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That's a smidge higher than the U.K.'s figure, where 24 percent of drinkers binged over the same period. But the British did beat the Irish at the upper end of the bell curve: Fully 6 percent of drinkers in the U.K. said they typically had 10 or more rounds per outing.

Both countries have comparable numbers of regular drinkers.

The study shows that European countries vary widely, and fascinatingly, in their consumption patterns: Italy, for instance, has among the highest rates of daily drinking: One-quarter of its drinkers drink daily. Yet 93 percent of drinkers limit themselves to two drinks or less.

(Denis Boyles, of the National Review, first noticed the dueling headlines.)
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